Sunday, July 24, 2011

Goooo Riders!

Oncoming biker
The siren call of mountain bike race in our back yard was too much...

..well it wasn't enough to get me to pin a number on my jersey, but it was enough for me to throw a few cold ones in a back pack, charge my lights, and head out for a midnight bike ride with Rob to check out the scene. And oh what a scene it was.

Jim was marshaling the turn down by the boat ramp. We hung out there long enough to shepard a few dozen riders through the tricky turn. It was quiet, the air was thick with humidity, and approaching bikes were surrounded by a halo of white light. But the novelty soon wore off, so we headed to the start/finish line at the top of the park. It was a behive of activity. Bikers on trainers warming up for the next race (wtf?). The race was being professionally timed, so the start/finish was well lit and festooned with an array of banners and equipment to read the riders' RF tags. Registration booths. An ambulance idling nearby. Riders and spectators wandering about waiting for the next heat.

But we knew the real action would be over at The Eddie Trail. We bushwhacked through a field to the top of the Eddie Trail and then jumped onto the race course clipped in and descending quickly toward the ruins. It wasn't long before we heard the voices and the music. Next it was the Christmas tree lights lining the single track path through the woods. And then we were at the ruins which were illuminated in relief with a powerful halogen light (generator powered). About 30 supporters sitting on the ruins/coolers and cheering us the the top of their lungs. "Riders!!  Goooo riders!!" It was like something out of Alice in Wonderland. We muttered that we were spectators, ditched our bikes next to the ruins, broke out a couple of beers, and joined in the festivities. Every few minutes a couple of racers would come screaming down the Eddie Trail  through the dark, into the light of the party, over a small log drop, and around a small turn, and then back into the darkness. Each encounter lasted less than 5 seconds. Those on their first lap looked quizzical - like they were seeing some sort of mirage. Those who came through on their second or third lap were grinning ear to ear.

I will never cease to be amazed and the fun that can be had with a bicycle.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Nothing To Lose

I'm sure using Locktite on my bottom bracket rates somewhere high on my list of stupid mistakes (not a short list). Let's not dwell needlessly on why I did that, let's just stipulate that I did. And for the last few years I had resigned myself that the usable life of that frame was now inexorably tied to the usable life of that $30 bottom bracket...which was now trashed as result some recent on the trail field repairs.

Out at Last!
So today I decided to give it one more go and try to remove those bearings. Spare nothing. Use a hammer if necessary. After all I had nothing to lose, the frame was destined for the junk heap anyway.  So I flipped the bike over, double checked the reverse threading, attached the Shimano BB tool, and leaned into it with all my weight. The tool bit into the soft aluminum. The aluminum was too soft. But I didn't care so I leaned harder, and eventually the BB came loose. Same routine on the other side.

New BB and derailleur hanger and
we're almost like new. 
Perhaps it was the 103 degree temperature (probably even hotter in the garage). Perhaps it was the bailing wire and two foot steel rod I had attached to the BB tool to give me more mechanical advantage. Perhaps it was because this time I DIDN'T WORRY what damage I might do to the bike or my knuckles.

Having nothing to lose opens many possibilities.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Still Smiling

New Bridge in
I was disappointed with the upgrade to Sebastian's Mudpit.

Oh it's top quality work - a single 20' span, ramped at both ends, and rock solid. But I was fond of the old one. The tippy three section bridge made out of scrap lumber that Mike, Sean, and I installed one rainy Sunday a few years ago. The one that had recently been wrapped in chicken wire because it was getting so slippery.

Tippy Three Section
Bridge made out of
Scrap Lumber
Progress for sure, but the old bridge made me smile every time I crossed it. Sentimental I guess. A pathetic but tangible symbol that I have contributed a tiny bit to our local trails.

So imagine my delight when I rolled up to the mini-mudpit near the upper field and saw the tippy three section bridge made out of scrap lumber (without the chicken wire this time). 

I smiled when I crossed it.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Diggers and Nipples

Bacon and Death Cookies. Diggers and Nipples.These terms and many more are explained in my December 2008 post on mountain biking vernacular. Following are some worthy additions uncovered during our recent D2M adventure:
  • Catcher's mitt - anatomical undercarriage that has been toughened up from extended time in the saddle. It comes at great cost but if properly maintained is a source of great pride and enables the rider to perform superhuman feats of cycling endurance.
  • Short Punchy Climb - the meaning has regional variances. In the Mid-Atlantic region it does not exceed 200 feet ("short") with occasional grades of 15% or more ("punchy"). In the Rocky Mountain states it at least two miles in length ("short") with similar grades. So "short" is a relative term. And on the heels of a 7 mile climb up 10% grade at altitudes approaching 11,000 feet, the "punchy" part feels more like a Jimmy Snooka pile driver.
  • Wattage Cottage - Wattage of course is a commonly used measure of pedaling power output.  The cottage part refers to the gluteous muscles of a well developed (generally female) cyclist capable of producing high wattages.
  • Six miles - Number of miles remaining in an extremely long endurance ride as reported by the ride leader. There is no correlation between this and the actual distance remaining to ride. This number is a universal constant. No matter how many additional miles are ridden, the distance remaining will still be exactly "six miles." It is a tremendous source of comfort to know you can always count on "six miles."
Some time I'll get around to merging into yet another compendium of useful mountain biking terms (like the Internet needs another one of those)...


Monday, July 11, 2011

Scratching That Itch

The Amateur Men
Spectacular french countryside. The view from a low flying helicopter. Two hundred of the best riders in the world giving everything they have for over 100 miles each day. I can almost feel the burn in my legs during those blistering finishes. Yes the Tour is a great 3 weeks, but sitting on the couch watching it on a television leaves me ungratified.

Women's Start
Sunday's Iron Hill Criterium in West Chester on the other hand had all the drama. Being right there on the rail, feeling the breeze as the riders blow by. Jumping back as two riders crash at full speed into the wrought iron fence in front of me. An emotional dispute in the pit. The crowd cheering as a local rider from Shirk's Cycling Team pulls ahead and wins the men's class. I am really not much of a roadie, but I have to say the criterium is a awesome way to see a bike race as a spectator.

But alas, I was still a spectator. I still have the itch. Must get out and ride in the dirt today. That is the only real way to scratch the itch.

"Put some fun between your legs"
     -- unknown

Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's in the can

The first video is "in the can" as they say. I guess I should thank The Edge for his contribution, but frankly the seven other guys who were pushing the pedals up to 11,425 feet deserve most of the credit. Here's to you guys!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Patton's Bridge

The bridge at bottom of the Sole Trail got a capital upgrade and a name ("Patton's Bridge"). The sign - not visible in this picture - is wedged between those two trees. Nice upgrade, the drop onto the old section was going to mess me up eventually.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

All Meatloaf All The Time

The D2M gang gets loosened up on Porcupine Singletrack
My father told me to always save the best for last. For example choking down the lima beans before savoring the meatloaf.

But as I begin to wrap up D2M with this post (the best one of all) I realize that there really were no lima beans with D2M. It was all meatloaf. With gravy. And the reason it was all meatloaf was because of the cast of characters that took this journey (leap of faith really) with me.

They brought a sense of adventure. They brought the Taj and Groover bingo. They brought the mutiny, Sheep Dip scotch, and a lot of laughs. They brought "Claus Van Traup" and "Glenn Armstrong." And the cracked helmet, and a naked girl to follow to Moab. They brought the magic, and I will never forget that.

All meatloaf all the time.

"It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." 
     --Dr. Seuss

Monday, July 4, 2011

McGiver McFee

I was skirting the edge of the uranium mine Superfund site when I heard (and felt) an explosion.

A bang actually, but it was loud enough to startle the other riders. Flat. A nasty one, this was a 6" tear along the tire bead. Now I've done my share of field repairs - flats, broken chains, busted derailleur hangers - but this one looked a game ender (at least until we could find the van). 

Matt promptly emptied his backpack and got busy. About 15 minutes with a tube of superglue, duct tape, and some plastic scraps from a spiral ring notebook did the trick. We aired it up and it held.  Matt said he was confident it would hold but suggested I ride "carefully." Which I did...for about 20 minutes but then we hit some awesome singltrack and rock gardens that left little choice but to ride full on. Which I also did. And the tire held.

So add duct tape, superglue, and some plastic scraps to the seatbag inventory. And some ingenuity.

"Is that a spanner in your packet, or are you just happy to see me?"
     -- unknown

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Bite Me

I left my sweat soaked CamelBak outside my tent on night three. Apparently some nocturnal critter was looking for a salty snack, and took a few hunks out of my hydration bite valve. Yes that's the part of the hydration system that goes in your mouth. There were no bike shops within 100 miles, so I got to finish the trip with this my mouth.

"Keep riding, Nancy. It's just water and dirt."
     -- Huck And Roll

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Luminous Beauty?

Conserving energy during lunch break on day two.
Some of those long painful climbs were actually the most beautiful moments of the trip. Even in the granny gear they required every ounce of strength I had for every pedal turn. These climbs were endless - half an hour, an hour, or more even longer before I could coast for just a few seconds.

I remember the sights, smells, sounds, and emotions of many of those climbs like they were yesterday. Day one climbing Bolam Pass with the two Mikes, day two riding KillPacker flats with Kirk and Jim, and day four riding up toward Geyser Pass with Sebastian and Dave. During these long climbs, small groups of 2-3 riders seemed to cling together for moral support (it certainly wasn't drafting at 3 mph).

There were few words exchanged. The laughter and light-hearted banter had died long ago. All energy was devoted to turning the pedals, grinding away thousands of feet of altitude one crank turn at a time. Each crank turn an effort. All I heard was the labored breathing of the riders right next to me. Occasionally one of us might get in an extra crank turn and inch slightly ahead. The group would respond, drawing their energy from the lead rider. Or we might sense one rider was fading and the group would ease up slightly allowing the struggling rider to recover. This dance would naturally switch off as individual energy levels ebbed and flowed. Long periods of concentrated silence, each rider tuned in to those around him.

And so it went for mile after mile. All the while surrounded by mind-boggling scenery, brilliant sunshine, and fresh smells of Colorado high country.

It may seem odd to hear this suffering described as a beautiful experience. But it was beautiful, I think for three reasons. First we were each on a personal journey discovering abilities we never knew we had (physical, mental, and emotional). But it was the camaraderie of the shared experience took it to a whole new level. For me it was almost euphoric.

"Suffering has a luminous beauty, and cleanses the mind in much the same way a wildfire clears an overgrown forest."
     -- Mike Ferrentino

Friday, July 1, 2011

What Works

My Junk
Five days in the mountains. Bikes, equipment, packing, what to bring, what not to bring, what works what doesn't?

Fixing lunch for the road
I packed pretty well. Used 90% of what I brought, and didn't miss much. Big wins:
  • Synthetic underwear - can't believe it took me this long. Always fresh and breezy, almost like going comando except with some help for the boys. A+++++
  • Arm warmers - as Glenn said "modular clothing is awesome." He's right.
  • My own bike seat - this where "the rubber meets the road" so to speak. Best to do it with a familiar friend.
  • Chamois Butt'r - awkward the first few times you use it but an ounce of prevention...
  • Baby wipes - five days in the bush, I'm just sayin'
  • Journal - just a few minutes each evening around the campfire, priceless
Friends, campfire,
and a bottle of scotch
made for a memorable
night four.
Of questionable utility:
  • Leg warmers - didn't use, maybe it was Dave's "Flash Dance" comment
  • Winter gear - didn't use, but would have been nice if weather hadn't cooperated
  • Beer and liquor - we went way overboard (8 cases beer, bottles of burbon, scotch, rum, vodka). For an event this physically demanding you just don't have the time or inclination to drink 5 beers a night. However scotch is a different story...
I've got my list, checked it twice, ready for another go....